21–26 of 26 entries from the month of: July 2008

Hungry Hungry Hippos

July 10th

The view from a boat tour of the Shire River in Malawi:

A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River
A view from the Shire River

Hippo are the most frightening animal I’ve ever been near. They kill more people than any other animal in Africa and their sheer size is unbelievable. We were close enough to hear them grunt, see the detail of their wrinkled brow, watch them swim, listen to their ears splatter in the water. Hippo don’t really swim. I learned from our guide that they run along the river bottom. Their tails act as a propeller. Pretty cool construction, huh? God is great.


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Africa, Journal, Photography, Travel
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Let’s Go on Safari: Liwonde National Park

July 9th

Have you ever wanted to go on a photo safari in Africa? Me too. Last summer I was lucky enough to visit Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique. However their civil war decimated the animal population and we saw little other than water buck and warthog. (They are beautiful in their own right but not necessarily safari-worthy on their own merit.)
Liwonde National Park in Malawi, on the other hand, has a ton of animals. So many elephant, in fact, they were capturing some of the herd and taking them to another park while we were there. The staff and grounds are pretty fantastic too. The safari went something like this:

Sunrise in Luwonde

Sunrise as we set off toward the park.

Arrival at Luwonde

The entrance, with its traditional African architecture.

Rules smules

Rules. So many rules for such a big place…

Huh. Yet they lead paid hikes?

I remembered this sign the next morning when we started off on foot for our photo tour that the park officials coordinated, of course.

The Safari Tent

Sleeping quarters for two.

Digs at Luwonde

Pretty swanky, eh? This place was so clean and comfortable. I loved these tents.

What are those on the flood plain?

What are those black things on the flood plain? Huh. Let’s get closer.

Sneaking up on me?

WOW! Where did you come from, Gorgeous?

Stupid Water Buck

Water Buck. Oy vey. I’ve seen enough of you. Scram! I’m trying to see your pachyderm friends.

Baby Monkey Hitching a Ride

You too Mama and Baby Baboon. Sure you are cute, but seriously. Did you see that elephant?

Time for some chow

Yeah. That one. Wow. You, Mrs. Elephant, are incredible.

Morning walk on the savannah

You’d be smiling like a goof ball too.


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Photography, Travel
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Take a Hike: Mulanje Mountain Reserve

July 8th

Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi

Want to take a break from whatever you are doing? How about a 10 minute escape to the jungle for a heart-pounding adventure? You are breathing some of the cleanest air on earth. A cool breeze and light mist keep you perfectly chilled while climbing the rolling path. Vervet monkeys jump above in the thick jungle canopy; their boisterous and happy cries fall downward on spellbound interlopers.
If fairies exist, we just found their Nirvana.

Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi
Mulanje Mountain Reserve, Malawi

Feel better? Yeah. Me too. Same time tomorrow? I’ve got another expedition to share.

Posted in
Africa, Get Fit, Journal, Photography, Travel
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Home, Sweet Home!

July 7th

It took 44 hours door-to-door, but I am happily back home. Although I’m already an Ambien into my evening, I couldn’t wait to see my photos and have uploaded a couple from Malawi.
Thank you again for all of the wonderful and encouraging comments you’d left about my travels this summer. I am grateful for your support. I plan to post lots of photos to share all the great colors and details.



The Lujeri Tea Estate where I stayed in Mulanji, Malawi.

The Guest House at the Lujeri Tea Estate

The guest house sleeps 8 and costs just $160 per night, including staff.

One of the many cloudy peaks in the Mulanji Range

The estate is surrounded by the Mulanji peaks, many of which are hidden behind clouds and are covered in thick, green luxurious jungle.

Tea bins

The estate sends tea around the world after it is sold weekly at the auctions in Blantyre. These buildings hold tea during the processing.

Hydrangeas as far as the eye can see -- my fave!

The land is lush and the gardens at the estate are fantastic.

Porter for the mountain

There are 10,000 workers who pick the tea and live near the estate. Precious is a picker. He is also a porter for those who want to climb Mount Mulanji.

Two sweet girls on the tea estate

There are 60 births each week at the estate’s 5 health clinics. I have to guess Malawi has one of the highest birth rates in the world. These sweet girls were selling donuts and were very timid to have their photo taken.

African checkers

Boys play an afternoon game of checkers.

African checkers, pieces

African checkers, actually.

Winston works under a gum tree

Winston sat under a gum tree working on his carved chests. The carvers in Malawi are superb. Their craftsmanship is amazing.

Winston, the carver
Some of Winson's carved wares

Some of the many things Winston and other sell to tourists. The rainforest keeps the carvers in supply of many types of wood.

Lunch at Karao'mula Country Lodge

Shrimp and spicy rice with peri peri sauce — the perfect lunch at the Karao’mula Country Lodge in Mulanji.

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Africa, Journal, Photography, Travel
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Tudo Bom

July 4th

I’ve just returned from an afternoon walk through Manga, a community near Beira, Mozambique. I skipped out a bit early today from work so I could take an hour to wander. I wanted to make sure to do so alone so I could drink in every drop of village life at my own pace. I’ll soon be back on an airplane. This was a great chance to stretch my legs and fill my head with the sights, sounds and scents of my sweet Africa.
School children in colorful uniforms race around on the street, excited about the pending weekend. Vendors line up their tangerines, small bags of peanuts and cashews and stacks of easily bruised bananas. Bootlegged movies scream from makeshift movie theaters — a reed shack with heavy black plastic draped over the roof to provide darkness in the otherwise sunny day. I wonder how these entrepreneurs rigged the electricity, found a DVD player, were able to purchase movies?
A friend said this week that a book should be written on African ingenuity. There is no end to the creativity of these people. Children make elaborate toys from wire, recycled bottles and plastic bags. Women find new uses for the oddest things. Clothing is worn until it is thread bare and then is used for bandages or cleaning scraps. Bicycles are repaired time and time again; welders sit on the side of the road with parts hanging from avocado trees.
There is a simplicity and beauty to African life that one can’t help but appreciate. In Manga, you eat what you grow. If your children are lucky, they have uniforms and basic supplies to attend school for one of the three-hour sessions offered daily. You walk everywhere. You know your neighbors and you know that life is fleeting.
It is hard to explain why I feel so alive here, so connected to the people. When I lived in Cameroon, I was just 20 years old and so scared and culturally shocked. My first experience traveling to Mozambique wasn’t much better. Now, with several more stamps in my passport, I am sad to be leaving after spending a month wandering and working. My heart beats differently — it is as though I am more connected to God and have a clearer purpose. I simply love Africa. The people have so much to teach me. The land never ceases to leave me in awe. Mozambican women are absolutely incredible. I saw a 20-something mother yesterday who had a young baby on her back, wrapped in a bright capulana, a child at her feet, a swollen, pregnant belly leading her, and a shovel balanced perfectly on her head. When I looked at her in complete admiration, she smiled. Such responsibility and such happiness!
Tonight I’m celebrating the 4th of July with a group of Americans. We’re making pizza and there were rumors about Chinese fireworks found at the bendover market. We are ever more thankful for independence, celebrating our country in one that is new to democracy. We are also ever aware of the turmoil in nearby Harare, as Robert Mugabe continues the active distruction of Zimbabwe. The immigration riots in South Africa also have Mozambicans worried. Their democracy is a precious commodity on a continent where the majority of leaders are dictators. A reminder of their violent past blows in the wind; their national flag includes an AK47.
One of the favorite expressions here is “how is it?” Mozambicans ask me this regularly and I laugh. At first I responded, “I don’t know? How is it?” Soon enough I learned the right response was “tudo bom” — everything is groovy. Indeed, this 4th of July, tudo bom.


Posted in
Africa, Journal, Travel
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Tool Chest

July 1st

Today I played Ultimate frisbee with one group of orphans, and taught a different group how to do basic sewing. These experiences perfectly summarize my feelings about my career in Mozambique. I have been educated to do so much, but I feel helpless. Instead, I’ve fallen back on what comes naturally — being goofy, running around, and being domestic.
I remember once watching Jamie Foxx on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” He was telling James Lipton how his grandmother had always made him go to church to sing, take piano lessons and play on the football team. Each of these skills came to be vitally important in the development of his acting career. He didn’t understand his grandmother’s insistence then, but when she died just a few days before he received the Oscar for “Ray,” it dawned on him: sometimes we have tools sharpened for when the opportunity arises. They don’t make sense until the project comes along and we have what it takes to get the job done.
I never thought playing a year of Ultimate frisbee in Tempe would come in handy in Manga, Mozambique — but boy did it. The orphanage is run by a middle-aged American man (saint, really) who cares for 35 orphaned boys. The boys are not only expected to do well in school, but they are also taught how to do construction, plumbing and other vocational skills that will make them highly employable once they are done with high school. When we arrived, a group of boys were working on a concrete fence. They were all too pleased to pull out their frisbees and challenge us to a match. I was the only girl to take the bait and by the end of an hour, I was wheezing but thankful that I run. I think they were a little surprised to see a girl hang with them and to be honest, I was a little surprised myself. PE used to be fun; now running around for an hour leaves me sweaty and pooped.
The sewing has been a delight too. We are working with a separate group of girls, teaching them basic sewing with the idea that they’ll be able to secure work when they are done with schooling too. Between entertaining the little kids outside of the machesa (a grass structure we use for community education) with a game of Raton! Raton! Gato! (like duck, duck, goose — but with animals they know), we taught a bunch of girls how to sew basic puppets. They learned to sew buttons for eyes and how to sew right sides together. It was fun and I couldn’t help but laugh that the last two tools I thought I’d be using in Mozambique would be frisbee and sewing.
Go figure. And yes, it makes that last little bit of school debt that much more annoying.
I will be home this time next week and I am excited and sad. I miss my bed, eating healthy food, my gym friends, the bagel boys, and of course my family and the Ya Yas. I don’t miss the heat, the commute, being way too attached to my Blackberry and NPR, and feeling like a cultural abnormality in a sea of MTV girls living in Tempe. It should be an interesting transition to American life. In the meantime, I’m savoring these last few days of African life.


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Africa, Journal, Public Health, Uncategorized
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